“I got tired of playing Mexican maids and prostitutes, so I changed my name ‘Dyana Ortelli’ [Italian accent]. Now I play Italian maids and prostitutes!”– Dyana Ortelli
KCAL9, Saturday, 3/30 at 7PM
KCBS, Sunday, 4/7 at 4PM
By Elia Esparza
When Bel Hernandez was thinking of who would sit at the ¡HOLA! LA talk show table she knew one thing: She wanted a diverse mix of four Latinas with distinct voices, opinions and style—she wanted someone like her good friend, comedienne-actor, Dyana Ortelli!
One of the most outspoken pro-Latina advocates in Hollywood, Ortelli took her frustration about the lack of positive roles for Latino actors and infused it into her comedy. The very funny and vociferous Ortelli is super serious about her work and makes every word on stage, TV or film count. This is one Latina who will not be ignored, dismissed or be made invisible.
She’s appeared in countless television and film roles including the iconic films La Bamba, Born In East L.A., American Me, and Luminarias. And, if you’re into Curb Your Enthusiasm, you’ll recognize her as Dora the housekeeper.
We caught up with our favorite funny Latina to talk shop and guess what? The ¡HOLA LA! co-host had plenty to say.
First things first, about your name… Dyana with one “n”?
Dyana: “Diana” is the Greek goddess of moon and hunting — a strong, powerful, woman! I suspect she never needed to attend “women empowerment conferences” or read endless “women’s empowerment” books like Lean In. And I don’t either! I used to love seeing the statue of “Diana la Cazadora” when my parents would take us to Mexico City. That was inspiring. My mother decided to change the spelling of my name to “Dyana” with a “y” on my birth certificate. She must have sensed I would challenge convention my entire life.
You have a unique fashion style that screams “I’m me!” Tell us about it.
Dyana: Speaking of challenging convention……I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve been featured as a Fashion Victim in The National Enquirer, The Star, UsWeekly and People En Español! Even when it comes to fashion, I like to think outside the box and do my own thing. I’d rather be a “fashion victim” than “best dressed”!
My style in two words? Age-inappropriate! LOL!!!
What are your expectations for ¡HOLA! LA?
Dyana: I’d love for us to become a daily national show: ¡HOLA! U.S.A. has a nice ring to it! I hope we can address a wide range of topics and shine a bright spotlight on our Latino celebrities as well as our leaders—from Eva Longoria to Sonia Sotomayor!
What does being a part of the ¡HOLA! LA host ensemble mean to you?
Dyana: It means that I have three hosts to upstage, so I need to start wearing more neon green! Seriously, I love these gals! We have a great time together!
What do you say to people when they compare you to other English-language talk shows on the air now?
Dyana: Well, we’ve all had plenty of bland tortilla chips. I say it’s time to add some authentic homemade salsa and taste the difference!
Who would be your dream guest to have on ¡HOLA! LA?
Dyana: America Ferrera. I love her work! From Real Women Have Curves to Ugly Betty to producing her own movie, The Dry Land. She’s an amazing talent, authentic and real.
You are an inspiration for many Latinas out there! What would you say to someone who is trying to get into the business?
Dyana: Find what makes you unique and different from everyone else. Be persistent and don’t think for one minute that it’s going to be easy.
What is your favorite story that happened during one of the tapings of ¡HOLA! LA?
Dyana: The taping of our pilot was top secret. Even people at KCBS didn’t know what all these ‘Latinos’ were doing there. So we were getting into make-up and somebody asked me, ‘is this for Telemundo’? I had to laugh! They still can’t get used to the idea of Latinas speaking English!
Your favorite inspirational quote or recipe for success?
Dyana: ‘The best thing an actor can have is dignity.’ James Garner said that once when I worked with him on Rockford Files.
Something You May Not Know About Dyana:
Wild, wacky and outrageous, Ortelli is a self-described HAC — Host, Actress, Comedienne. She is one of Hollywood’s pioneers who has appeared in numerous classic Latino films, including La Bamba, American Me, The Three Amigos, and Born in East L.A. She is mostly remembered for her role as Irene in Luminarias, and as Mario Lopez’ mother in Outta Time. Dyana has two new projects coming up later this year: Expecting Mary and An Evergreen Christmas and is currently guest starring in the mini-novela Sin Verguenza on YouTube. She also guest starred in numerous TV series including CSI, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Saving Grace and Notes From The Underbelly. A popular stand-up comedienne, Dyana has two comedy records to her name — The Hot and Spicy Latinas of Comedy and The Latina Queens of Comedy– “the only Latina with two comedy records and no police record!”
Special thanks to Mary Chuy who also contributed to this interview.